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Tangipahoa Parish may not get a chance at a casino after all

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Tangipahoa Parish may not get a chance at a casino after all

Tangipahoa Parish may not get a chance to bring a casino to its community after all.

The Louisiana Senate voted 18-15 Tuesday (April 24) to kill Senate Bill 417, which called for a local voter referendum in Tangipahoa Parish on the presence of a casino in November. If the state doesn't allow that vote to take place, then the casino can't move there. 

The legislation would have allowed -- with voters' approval -- for one of the 15 existing riverboat casino licenses, associated with DiamondJacks Casino & Resort, to be moved from Bossier City to the Tangipahoa location. The actual transfer of the license would have to be approved by the gaming control board. 

The riverboat would have been located along the Tangipahoa River southwest of the intersection of Interstate 12 and Highway 445, just a few miles west of St. Tammany parish. It was expected to be a $100 million complex, with resort amenities. 

The Senate could vote on the legislation a second time -- keeping the proposal for a Tangipahoa  casino alive -- but it's less likely after it's already failed to pass once. 

The proposed complex would have included a 27,000-square-foot gambling floor with about 800 slot machines and 25 card tables. Initial plans called for one 200-room hotel as well. 

Local officials in Tangipahoa parish were pushing for the failed legislation, sponsored by Sen. Bodi White, R-Central. The Tangipahoa Parish Council had voted in favor of putting the casino referendum in front of their community on the November ballot. But without state approval, they can't put that proposal before the voters and the casino move can't be approved.

One of the main opponents to the bill was the video poker industry, which feared the casino would be competition for video poker outlets -- housed at truck stops, restaurants and bars --  located on the North Shore. Tangipahoa doesn't have any video poker locations, but there are some in nearby St. Helena Parish.

  

Penninsula Pacific was interested in moving the riverboat casino to Tangipahoa from Bossier City because the company considers it to be "an underserved area", according to Brent Stevens, the head of the gambling group, who spoke at a legislative hearing last month. 

Stevens said about $260 million from Louisiana is spent in Mississippi casinos every year and a large chunk of the people who go to Mississippi for gambling go through Tangipahoa Parish to get there. "We could probably get 40 percent of that traffic to stay local," he said during a committee hearing last month. 

In 1996, Tangipahoa Parish voted to accept riverboat gaming, though not to accept video poker operators. Most of Tangipahoa's surrounding parishes have no gambling, though. Livingston, Washington and St. Tammany parishes do not accept either form of gambling within their borders. 

The Senate has been wary of approving any gambling bills this spring. More than three dozen bills that would change gambling regulations have been introduced in the current legislative session, though only a few have been able to get very far in the legisiative process.

The Senate only approved one of the five gambling bills that came up for consideration Tuesday evening. The upper chamber voted in favor of legislation that would allow riverboat casinos to move onto land near their current locations. That bill passed shortly before the Tangipahoa casino legislation was killed. 

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Julia O'Donoghue is a state politics reporter based in Baton Rouge. She can be reached at  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  or on Twitter at @jsodonoghuePlease consider following us on Facebook at NOLA.com

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